Thursday, February 5, 2009

Madison Nguyen and A Proxy War

The absentee ballots for recall have just been sent out this week but the gloves were already off since last May. Madison Nguyen raised over $200,000 mostly from out of state developers, lobbyists and kingmakers of labor unions with their large sum contributions. The recall team was mostly outgunned by Nguyen money wise until the recent surge where they raised over $100,000 in the last 1 month. Their money is mostly from ordinary folks giving them $50 to $100.

Mainstream media is on Nguyen's side as well as most city councilmembers, the Democratic Party and of course South Bay Labor Unions. Nguyen has the Labor's machine behind her along with Mayor Reed's staff (on loan) and his powerful consultant Vic Aljouny (at least in the beginning).

The recall team is basically made up of young professionals of engineer, dentist, pharmacist, ect.. who has no campaign experience and basically are doing this on a volunteer basis.

From the outside looking in, it is a mismatch between pro and amateur. But in reality Nguyen is fighting for her life. How could that be? Her supporters are the power that be in the community and quite dedicated. In the Vietnamese community, Nguyen has the support of the Que Huong Radio, the most powerful radio in the community. She has enlisted VietWeekly from southern California to write articles and also paid for their publication here in San Jose. She also the support of V-Times and Thoi Bao newspapers. She has the backing of Vien Thao Media, a conglomerate of radio shows, newspapers and yellow pages. She has the support of Dr. Ngai Nguyen, one of the biggest political contributors of the Republican Party nationwide. The list goes on and on and this is not counting all the powerful elected officials.

So what are at stake and who has to gain or lose in this election?

The mayor has everything at stake and already lost. This is the second Vietnamese-American woman Reed has risked his political capital on. Win or lose, by supporting the controversial Madison Nguyen and unqualified Hon Lien, he had showed bad judgement. And also allowing his powerful consultant Vic Aljouny to run amok as the person behind the throne, he hurt himself even more. And Reed is not doing any favor for himself with his back room dealing trying to find a replacement for Nguyen by appointment. His office purposedly floated names like Khoa Nguyen to Cora Tomalinas to the community to test their reactions.

The councilmembers Pete Constant and Sam Liccardo. It is no secret that these two young politicians (LSI can call them young because LSI is much older than them) will one day face each other in a mayoral race. Liccardo and Constant lost their luster with Reed as they showed their independent streak. They know that they will need the Vietnamese-Americans since they are the most important swing vote in the primary of race. Pete has an edge right now with his voice of reason. Whether Madison wins or loses, they will need to reach out more to the community. Liccardo's district is full of ethnic enclaves and the Vietnamese-Americans there are watching him carefully.

Nora Campos similar to Reed has everything to lose in by sticking with Madison Nguyen. Her next political race in 2010 could be very difficult. She cannot rely on her Hispanic base alone to carry her. Her open dislike for Reed and her support of Nguyen have isolated her politically. But she still has Labor Unions and their political machine. Since she will not run for mayor, the next logical choice is Joe Coto's state assembly seat (or another state assembly seat close by). But this is where she will have tough time with the White and Asian voters.

And then there is the South Bay Labor Unions. They are pouring every resources to fight this battle. It is uncharacteristic of them to put in so much efforts this early for any local races. They started pumping money and manpower into Nguyen since early December, this is 4 months before the election. The last time they committed to anybody with such ferocity is of course, one of their own, Cindy Chavez. They have the most to lose in this race. They have not recovered politically since their beating at the hand of Vic Aljouny. Another high profile loss, they would lose their mantle as the decisive third political force in the Bay Area, behind the Democratic Party and Republican Party.

On the other hand, the Vietnamese-American community has nothing to lose. They have been labeled by the mainstream media and the political establishment as just a bunch of "bullies and thugs" and "extremists". Even if they are successful with the recall, the spin will always be it was a special election and Nguyen was damaged good. The community still is only a minority voting bloc as the media would put the community in its place. But the fact of the matter is, the intention of the community was not to be a political force and to establish itself to be anything more than who they are - A small community trying to face crisis internally and was dragged into the big stage by circumstances.

But beneath the jingoism and superficial racism by the establishment and power that be in San Jose, "Real Politik" dictates that every candidates will need their powerful votes for they tend to vote as a single bloc. Reed demonstrated in his defeat of Chavez and the powerful Labor Unions by having the majority of the community with him in the primary so that he could get into the run-off and used the momemtum to carry him into victory. Learned his lesson against Reed, Cortese did the same and simple crushed Otto Lee in the last general election.

At the end of the days, everybody wants something and has all kind of angles that they try to exploit. Nguyen is basically reduced to being a pawn for others' political ambitions and advancement. To them she has to win at all cost to keep their own political fortune. And some of them are because of Little Saigon became political strange bedfellows. Behind the scene, they all could not stand her arrogance and wish privately that she would go away.

Nguyen of course is fighting hard with everything she got. And she has a lot of weapons and on the surface an overwhelming advantage. Her attack on her own community has been fierce and incite hatred and racism from the White community. Using her office as a leverage, she tries her best to exploit the situations but the sad thing is that everywhere she goes in the community, people want the truth from her. Instead of facing the issues raised by her critics she turned around attack the community itself with innuendos and dirty politic tricks. She should answer her critics on issues such as why did she cut deal with Tang Lap to name the district according to his request as "Vietnam Town Business District" and then lied about, why did she violate the Brown Act, why did she have to humiliate the community publicly by calling them a bunch of unemployed do no good folks.

March 3, 2009 will be a day of infamy for the community. It will be the conclusion of the Little Saigon saga and for Reed to save his political legacy, he will need to lead the healing process. He is the leader of a city where there is only 1/3 Whites. This is a time for Reed to shine and hold true to his good heart and good intention when he took over the city from a corrupted administration.

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Unofficial Election Results

 San Jose City Council, D7   Precincts Reporting:  100% Tam Nguyen                        31.85%       2,275  Maya Esparza             ...